Policy Leadership for Active Youth

Policy Leadership for Active Youth (PLAY) is a policy research initiative of the Georgia State University School of Public Health in partnership with the Georgia Center for Obesity and Related Disorders (GCORD) of the University of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia focused on engaging multiple sectors. Supported by Healthcare Georgia Foundation, the major focus of PLAY is connecting emerging evidence around childhood overweight and obesity to prevention and reduction activities occurring throughout Georgia.

Since 2004, Policy Leadership for Active Youth has contributed to building Georgia’s capacity to address childhood obesity. PLAY has served a vital role by engaging and convening a critical mass of organizations, institutions, and stakeholders to participate in an urgently-needed policy dialogue on childhood obesity and factors that contribute to this increasing problem among Georgia’s youth. PLAY has thus far initiated and nurtured partnerships to streamline capacity-building efforts and to enrich strategic planning activities. The initiative has become a focal point for childhood obesity prevention efforts in Georgia.

Georgia State University Members

Michael P. Eriksen, Sc.D., Professor and Director
Rodney Lyn, M.S., Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Project Director
Laura Bracci

UGA Members

Rebecca Mullis, Ph.D., R.D., Professor, Academic Department Head
Richard Lewis, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., FACSM, Professor
Emma Laing, Ph.D., Post Doctoral Associate, Department Foods and Nutrition

Medical College of Georgia Members

William P. Kanto, MD, Department Chair, Vice Dean, Hawes Chair in Pediatrics, Professor
Deborah Young-Hyman, MA, PhD, Professor, Pediatrics

Research Assistants

Megan Smith, MPH Graduate Student, SPH, GSU

Scholarly Publications

To reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity, policy and environmental changes that lead to increased physical activity and better nutrition must be identified. PLAY Team members have added to the emerging evidence around physical activity, nutrition, and childhood obesity through publishing research and data.

Georgia State University

  • Eriksen, M. Lessons learned from public health efforts and their relevance to preventing childhood obesity. Institute of Medicine (U.S.). Committee on prevention of obesity in children and Youth. Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth, Food, and Nutrition Board, Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Jeff R. Koplan, Catharyn T. Liverman, Vivica I. Kraak, editors. Institute of Medicine of National Academies. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C. (2005) (p 343-375).
  • Yanfeng L, Raychowdhury, S., Tedders, S., Lyn, R., Lòpez-De Fede, A., and Zhang, J. (under review). Association between increased BMI and school absenteeism among US children and adolescents: Findings from a national survey, 2005-2008. International Journal of Obesity.
  • Okosun, I., Lyn, R, Davis-Smith, M., Eriksen, M., Seale, P. (In press). Validity of a continuous metabolic risk score as an index for modeling metabolic syndrome in adolescents. Annals of Epidemiology.
  • Lyn, R., Hepburn, V., O’Meara, S., and Rockett, A. (In Press). Compliance and Quality of Local Wellness Policies: Findings from a Statewide Evaluation in Georgia. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
  • Okosun, I., Davis-Smith, M., Lyn, R., and Seale, P. (In Press). Prediabetes awareness, healthcare provider’s advice, and lifestyle changes in American adults. International Journal of Diabetes Mellitus.
  • Lyn, R., Moore, B., and Eriksen, M. (In press). The Application of Public Health Lessons to Stemming the Obesity Epidemic. In Understanding Obesity: Biological, Psychological and Cultural Influences. Editors: Sharon R. Akabas, PhD, Louis J. Aronne, MD, Sally Ann Lederman, PhD,Cathy Nonas, MS, RD, CDE, F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, MD, TA Wadden., PhD. Wadsworth Publishers.
  • Lyn, R. (Guest editor). Physical activity research: identifying the synergistic relationships between individual, social, and environmental factors to promote active lifestyles. Health Education Research, 25: 183-184, 2010.
  • Okosun, I., Boltri, Lyn, R., J.M., and Davis-Smith, M. (2010). Continuous metabolic syndrome risk score in American children: Impact of body mass index and physical activity. Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 12(8):636-44.
  • Eriksen, M, Lyn, R, and Moore, BJ (2011, January). The application of public health lessons to childhood obesity prevention. In Childhood Obesity Prevention: International Research, Controversies and Interventions. Editors: Jennifer A. O'Dea and Michael Eriksen. Oxford University Press
  • Lyn, R. and McCarty, F. (Letter to the Editor, June 2009). Interpret results with caution. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 180 (13). A critique of Harris et al. (2009). Effect of school-based physical activity interventions on body mass index in children: a meta-analysis. Canadian Medical Association Journal
  • Resnicow, K., Lazarus, A., Davis, A., Lyn, R., London, and J., Kotler (1999). Go Girls!: Development of a Community-Based Nutrition and Physical Activity Program for Overweight African American Adolescent Females. Journal of Nutrition Education, 31:283C. 1999
  • Lyn, R. (Opinion-Editorial, December 6, 2008). Closing recreation centers costs more in the long run. Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

University of Georgia

  • Moore, J. B., Davis, C. L., Baxter, S. D., Lewis, R., Yin, Z. (2008) Physical activity, metabolic syndrome and overweight in rural youth. J. Rural Health, In press.
  • Pollock N.K., Laing, E.M., Baile C.A., Hamrick M.W., Hall D.B., Lewis, R.D. (2008) Reply to Cole, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, In press.
  • Laing, E.M. (2007) Exercise and Nutrient Need. in: Berdanier, C.D., Feldman, E.,
  • Dwyer, J. (Eds.) Handbook of Nutrition and Food (pp. 373-388) Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Inc.
  • Pollock N.K., Laing, E.M., Baile C.A., Hamrick M.W., Hall D.B., Lewis R.D. (2007) Is adiposity advantageous for bone strength? A pQCT study in late adolescent females. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86:1530-38.
  • Willis, C.M., Laing, E.M., Hall, D.B., Hausman, D.B., & Lewis, R.D. (2007) A prospective Analysis of Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations in White and Black Prepubertal Females in the Southeastern United States, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85:124-30.
  • Pollock, N.P., Laing, E.M., Modlesky, C.M., O’Connor, P.J., & Lewis, R.D. (2006) Former College Artistic Gymnasts Maintain Higher BMD: A Nine-Year Follow-Up, Osteoporosis International, 17:1691-7.
  • Lewis, R.D., Meyer, M.C., Lehman, S.C., Trowbridge, F.L., Bason, J.J., Yurman K.H., & Yin, Z. (2006) Prevalence and Degree of Childhood and Adolescent Overweight in from Rural, Urban and Suburban Georgia, Journal of School Health, 76(4):126-132.
  • Laing E.M., Wilson A.R., Modlesky C.M., O’Connor P.J., Hall D.B., & Lewis R.D. (2005) Initial Years of Recreational Artistic Gymnastics Training Improves Lumbar Spine Bone Mineral Accrual in 4 to 8 Year Old Females. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 20:509-19
  • Brandon, J. L., Mullis, R. M., Jonnalagadda, S. S., & Hughes, M. H. (2005). Relationships and CHD risks of BMI, lipoproteins, lipids, and blood pressure in African-American men and women. Preventive Medicine, 40, 349-354.
  • Poudevigne, M.S., O'Connor, P.J., Laing, E.M., Wilson, A.R., Modlesky, C.M., & Lewis, R.D. (2003) Body Images of 4-8 Year Old Girls at the Outset of Their First Gymnastics Class. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 34:244-50.
  • Laing E.M., Massoni, J.A., Nickols-Richardson, S.M., Modlesky, C.M., O'Connor, P.J., & Lewis, R.D. (2002) A Prospective Study of Bone Mass and Body Composition in Female Adolescent Gymnasts. Journal of Pediatrics, 141:211-6.
  • Hampl, J., Anderson, J., Mullis, R.M. (2002). Position of the American Dietetic Association: The role of dietetics professionals in health promotion and disease prevention. Journal of The American Dietetic Association, 102, 1680-1687.

Medical College of Georgia

  • Petty, K. H., Davis, C.L., Tkacz, J., and Young-Hyman, D. Exercise effects on self-worth and depression symptoms in overweight children: A randomized controlled trial. (Accepted, J Peds. Psych. Jan, 2008)
  • Black, M. and Young-Hyman, D. Introduction to Special Issue: Pediatric Overweight. J. Pediatric Psychology, 32(1):1-5, 2007.
  • Black, M. and Young-Hyman, D. (Eds.) Special Issue: Pediatric Overweight. J. Pediatric Psychology, 32(1), 2007.
  • Young-Hyman, D., Tanofsky-Kraff, M., Yanovski, S.Z., Keil M., Cohen, M., Peyrot, M., Yanovski, J.A. Psychological status and weight-related distress in overweight or at risk for overweight children. Obesity 14(12), 1-10, 2006.
  • Kanto, W.P.: Influencing career decisions in pediatrics. Journal of Pediatrics 144(6):693-694, 2004.
  • Kanto, W.P. and Stagno, S. Medicaid. . .the impending storm. Journal of Pediatrics 145(5):571-572, 2004.
  • Chesney, R., Friedman, A., Kanto, W.P., Stanton, B.F. et al.: Pediatric practice and education in the genomic/postgenomic era. Journal of Pediatric 141(4):453-458, 2002.
  • Karp, W.B., Grigsby, R.K., McSwiggan-Hardin, M., Pursley-Crotteau, S., Adams, L.N., Bell, W., Stachura, M., Kanto, W.P.: Use of telemedicine for children with special health care needs. Pediatrics 105(4) 843-847,

PLAY has increased awareness of childhood obesity among policymakers, the general public, and other stakeholders in Georgia by synthesizing current and emerging evidence around physical activity, nutrition, and childhood obesity in five policy briefs. The evidence based briefs are distributed to a variety of sectors including school, public health, community, and policymakers across the state. Policy briefs to date have focused on topics including: the role of physical activity in schools, strategies for implementing community interventions in the rural south, and the severity of overweight among children and adolescents in Georgia.

play042809Addressing Overweight- Model Nutrition Practices for Children and Families







Addressing Overweight –The Role of Community in Promoting Physical Activity







parents_familiesAddressing Overweight - The Role of Parents and Families






overweight_severityAddressing Overweight -Severity in Children and Adolescents







summit_proceedingsStatewide Summit Proceedings  Addressing Overweight-The Role of Physical Activity







summit_summaryPLAY Statewide Summit on Policy Childhood Overweight: Executive Summary







rural_southAddressing Overweight-  Interventions Tailored to the Rural South







physical_activityHealth Voices: Addressing Overweight -The Role of Physical Activity in Schools







PLAY Research Paper: School-based Physical Activity Interventions to Prevent or Treat Childhood Overweight

In spring 2005, Policy Leadership for Active Youth (PLAY) convened a Statewide Leadership Council consisting of representatives from approximately 30 organizations representing schools, families, communities, and healthcare sectors in Georgia. Leadership Council members include advocates, educators, nutrition and physical activity specialist, clinicians, policymakers, and community leaders. The council is chaired by Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, former director of the CDC and chair of the IOM Committee on Childhood Obesity. The council convenes regularly for dialogue, issue analysis, agenda setting, and collaboration around childhood overweight. The Council has become a focal point for childhood overweight prevention in Georgia.

The PLAY Statewide Leadership Council was developed to engage key groups to create a strategic plan for the State of Georgia to address overweight and obesity; to coordinate and integrate activities related to nutrition and physical activity across organizations and utilize the collective influence of council members to promote evidence-based policies.

Meeting Minutes

Statewide Leadership Council Members

The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation
The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation seeks applications from non-profit organizations across the state of Georgia that pursue innovative ways to help kids adopt lifestyles that reduce obesity and increase fitness levels. Several of the areas for funding include Football and cheerleading, Healthy lifestyles, Other sports and fitness programs.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Foundation provides grants for projects in the United States and U.S. Territories that advance our mission to improve the health and health care of all American. The foundation aims to fund innovative projects that can have measurable impact and can create meaningful, transformative change.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention
The CDC awards nearly 85 percent of its budget through grants and contracts to help accomplish its mission to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is one of the largest federal departments, the nation's largest health insurer, and the largest grant-making agency. HHS manages an array of grant programs in basic and applied science, public health, income support, child development, and health and social services.

National Institute of Health
The National Institute of Health (NIH)  funds grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts that support the advancement of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems to meet the NIH mission of extending healthy life and reducing the burdens of illness and disability. While NIH awards many grants specifically for research, grant opportunities that support research-related activities are also provided, including: construction, training, career development, conferences, resource grants.

Department of Education
This year the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is providing...nearly $37 billion to states and school districts to improve K-12 schools and meet the special needs of students, about $2.4 billion to help strengthen teaching and learning in colleges and other postsecondary institutions, over $4 billion to support rehabilitation, adult education, research and development, statistics, and assessment, about $1.5 billion in contracts for goods and services necessary to carry out its mission.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Legislative Database
Georgia Afterschool Investment Council Legislative Updates
Voices for Georgia’s Children GA Legislative Tracker
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: BALANCE End-of-Year Report Tracks State Action on Obesity
HB 229

Tool Kits

Environmental Assessment
Safe Routes to Schools
Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Obesity Tool Kit
Healthy States Obesity Resources
Weight Management Research to Practice Series

Advocacy Resources

Voices for Georgia Children
American Public Health Association
Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety
Georgia Coalition for Physical Activity and Nutrition

Model Practices

Active Living Research
Council on State Governments: Healthy States
National Governors Association, Center for Best Practices 
Guide to Community Preventive Services
The Cochrane Library


Center for Disease Control and Prevention Data and Statistics
Georgia Department of Human Resources Data

Other Helpful Resources

Bright From the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning\
Georgia DOE:Physical Education Performance Standards
Georgia’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
World Health Organization

Healthy Eating for Life


National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity

Voices for Georgia’s Children